§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he is satisfied with the methods of treatment in the National Health Service of newborn babies with spina bifida; and if he will make a statement;
(2) if, having regard to statements in the British Medical Journal of 3rd December 1977, and elsewhere, that newborn handicapped children are dying as a result of treatment given in the National Health Service, he will give his estimate of how many such children have perished thus, and state his policy in the matter.
§ Mr. Moyle
Advances in recent years in medicine and surgery have made possible the survival of babies with severe congenital handicaps who would previously have died. A guidance booklet "Care of the child with spina bifida" 161W prepared by the Standing Medical Advisory Committee, following a multi-disciplinary conference which discussed the results of early surgical treatment of spina bifida, was issued by the Department in 1973. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
This guidance, which I am satisfied is still valid, indicates that any decision about the advisability or otherwise of an operation upon a young baby must be taken in the context of a co-ordinated medical and nursing policy which recognises the emotional and ethical problems involved; and must take account of the wishes of the parents. The responsibility for determining the management and treatment of babies born with spina bifida, whether or not they have been selected for operation, lies with the individual doctors treating those babies, as in all medical matters. The decision which the doctor takes must conform with the ethical standards of the medical profession.
I regret that information in the form requested is not available.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many children were born with spina bifida in National Health Service hospitals in the last two years; how many were not operated on; how many died in hospital; how many left hospital alive; what variation between different hospitals is shown by the statistics; and how many of such hospitals have never discharged a single spina bifida baby born alive therein without operation during the last two years.